Saturday 29 March 2014

Holocaust Denial & Inversion: Education Unit

Objective of unit of work: For students to understand that Holocaust Denial and Inversion are problematic subjects and the only way to evaluate an argument is to be aware that at least one counter-argument must be taken into consideration. History, therefore, is not a simple narrative that exists without contestation. 

(I)           RATIONALE:
  • The topic of Holocaust Denial and Inversion is perhaps best taught by explicitly making use of the most intellectual aspect of history teaching: historiography. We might define historiography as follows: “The presentation of a contested historical narrative based on the critical examination, evaluation, and selection of material from secondary sources and subject to scholarly criteria.” Some educators might be critical of framing Holocaust studies in what has been called a “forensic” manner, with the main emphasis on disputation or prosecution rather than constructivist-like empathy, but the prevalence of Holocaust Denial and Inversion in modern times demands such an approach.
  • For instance, David Irving, a Holocaust Denier, has been jailed in Austria for his work, and yet it was the David Irving vs. Penguin Books & Deborah Lipstadt ruling on 11 April 2000 that addressed his lack of academic rigour in order to prove beyond doubt he is an apologist for Hitler. To quote from one passage in the ruling: “[Irving] has resorted to the distortion of evidence; the manipulation and skewing of documents; the misrepresentation of data and the application of double standards to the evidence, in order to serve his own purpose exonerating Hitler and portraying him as sympathetic towards the Jews.” It was, then, proper debate and formal argumentation that that brought Irving undone.
  • On the basis of this, I have devised a unit of work that necessarily involves argument and counterargument. I have chose to make the student’s assessable response in the form of a class presentation, since this will serve to deepen or extend each student’s appreciation of how different perspectives exist on a single event in history. At the same time, the three-part presentation demands not only an acknowledgement of contestation, but also a reasoned judgement at the conclusion, or at least a synthesis of sorts. After all, it is all well and good that (say) a surgeon weighs up the pros and cons of proceeding with surgery but in the end he does have to come to a conclusion!
  • I have included as topic for our scrutiny Holocaust Inversion – a term used by Robert Wistrich in From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel (2012). Wistrich uses the expression to explain the concerted effort of some anti-Zionists to portray modern-day Israel as Nazis, and Palestinians as Hitler’s Jews. If this allegory prevails, then there is the likelihood that any study of the Holocaust, and even the scrutiny of Holocaust Deniers, will only have the paradoxical effect of undermining the legitimacy of the decisions made by Jewish people over the course of the modern era, including the foundation of the State of Israel, 14 May 1948.
  • Holocaust Inversion, in other words, has the capacity to turn the victim of Holocaust injustice into the perpetrator of a Holocaust-like injustice. As with the Lipstadt-Irving example, the Inversion allegory needs to be addressed or challenged in a logical and step-by-step way. For this reason, as the teacher I provide the students a presentation on the Holocaust Inverter Lenni Brenner, author of Zionism in the Age of Dictators (1983). This presentation will be included in this outline of my Educational Unit.
  • Finally, to assist students with contextualizing their presentation, a study of the genesis of Zionism, the background of Mandatory Palestine, The racialist ideology of National Socialism, Jews and the First Reich (1933-39), the Holocaust (1941-45), the War of Independence (1947-49), the Six Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), the origins of Yasser Arafat’s PLO, the Oslo Peace Process (1993-2000), and the Second Intifada (2000-05) will also be addressed.     

Task: Students must find a contested issue in the subject of Holocaust Denial and Inversion. They must research the topic and divide their response up into three parts: an overview, argument and counter-argument. They will be making a six-minute presentation to the class. Visuals are permissible but will be in addition to the actual speech. They must write out their speech in full, and then break it down into headings that go on debating cards. A copy of the speech in normal prose must be provided to the teacher. This will acknowledge any useful resources or sources that have been utilized for the speech.  

(II) CLASS TEXT: Middle East Conflict, (Longman, Sydney, 2003) by Michael Pyne
·      Zionism: the idea
·      Mandatory Palestine
·      The Holocaust: world support for Israel
·      Israel: the birth of a nation
·      The Suez conflict
·      The Six Day War (1967)
·      The Yom Kippur War (1973)
·      Camp David: Egypt takes a break (1987)
·      The First Intifada (1987-93)
·      The Oslo Peace Process (1983-2000)
·      The future: can the peace work? [The text finishes before the Second Intifada, 2000-05)]

Hitler’s Treatment of Jews, 1933-39
·       Background (Nazi Rise to Power / Ideology)
o      Early Nazis extremely ‘antisemitic’ (coined 1880s) – partly due to 19th C German nationalist movement
o      ‘Volkish’ aspects of Germans emphasised – implied race + religion -> unable to become ‘normalised’ due to race whereas previously could convert
o      Zionism originated from the Dreyfus Affair (France at the turn of the century, new levels of Judeophobia)
o      German Jews were a tiny minority of the population and fought in the First World War – German ultra-nationalists blamed Jews for events at Versailles (1918 November Criminals, Social Democrats)
o      1918-19 Spartacist Movement led by Polish Jew Rosa Luxemburg – ‘cosmopolitan’ influence destroying German tradition, possible effects similar to Bolshevik rise to power in Russia (1917)
o      Common enemy to bind people together in Hitler’s populist ideology which targeted many different groups
o      ‘Mein Kampf’ –> ‘Final Solution’ -> extermination or relocation? (Intentionalist vs. Structuralist)
o      Works of eugenist Hans F.K. Gunther influenced Nazi Party -> Aryan superiority / The Purity of Race
o      Nazi ideology essentially racist

·       Gradual Denaturalisation (Early Days of Hitler)
o      The original Concentration Camps did not specifically target the Jewish population.
o      Jews could not be a part of the “Volksgemeinschaft” – the people’s community because this was a racist ideology
o      Locally – prevented from complying with ritual purity requirements
o      Tax consultant licenses revoked
o      1933
§       Jewish immigrants denaturalised
§       Excluded from civil service and public office
§       Excluded from radio shows
§       Excluded from ownership of farms
§       Excluded from Army
§       April – Placements in schools and universities limited (1.5% quota for public education)
§       April – Forbidden from medical school, practicing on non-Jews
§       April – Forbidden from certain legal practices
o      1934
§       Excluded from stock market, banking
§       Excluded from acting

·       Segregation (1935-39)
o      1935 Nuremberg Laws – immediate consequences
§       Formalised matters, placated SA and old-time Nazis who had not profited as much from the Nazi ‘Revolution’
§       Defined ‘Jew’
§       Excluded from Army
§       Excluded from sitting medical exams
§       Lost German citizenship
§       Forbid marriage, relationships with non-Aryans
§       Forbid females being hired in jobs such as cleaning etc.
o      1935 Reich Propaganda Ministry prohibits Jewish soldiers from being recognised as casualties of the First World War
o      1936 excluded from the vote
o      1937-38 compulsory registration of businesses
o      1937-38 completely forbidden from medical/legal practice
o      1937-38 ‘Aryanisation’ of businesses
o      1938 banned from certain public spaces – sidewalks, restaurants etc.
o      1938 Evian Conference
§       Aim – to make Germany Judenfrei
§       300,000 of 500,000 German Jews left before Holocaust
§       Hitler allowed Jews to leave at $250pp / $1000 per family but Western countries unwilling to take Jews
§       Possibly did not plan on exterminating Jews until this point

·       Co-ordinated Violence Begins (1938-)
o      1938 many Polish Jews expelled
o      1938 Kristallnacht (November 9-10) – nationwide pogrom
§       Instigated by Nazi Party officials / SA members / Hitler Youth
§       Ostensibly public response to assassination of Ernst von Rath by Polish Jew Herschel Grynszpan on Nov 7 (because of expulsion)
§       ‘Insofar as [demonstrations] erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered’ -> Goebbels’ words taken as implicit permission to instigate pogrom
§       Instructions given not to harm non-Jewish life / property or foreigners (including Jews)
§       Aim to arrest Jews, esp. healthy men (total no. 30,000) -> transferred to concentration camps
§       267 synagogues destroyed (archives removed first)
§       7,500 shop windows smashed
§       Fined 1 billion Reichsmark: based on Goebbels’ speech blaming Jews for pogrom – ‘I would not like to be a Jew in Germany’
o      1938 results of Kristalnacht
§       Excuse for more legislation
§       Passports stamped with ‘J’
§       Driver’s licences confiscated
§       Expelled from schools
§       Banned from recreational venues eg theatres
o      1939 had to add ‘Israel’ and ‘Sara’ to given names
o      1939 Identity cards
o      1939 Invasion of Poland –>Germans established a ghetto at Treblinka, Poland (October 1939)
o      Anihilationist antisemitism appears on the horizon

  • The Longest Hatred documentary
  • Schindler’s List
  • Exodus
  • World at War documentary on Adolf Hitler
  • Documentary on the War of Independence
  • Documentary on the Six Day War 

  • Thus, the student’s presentation will be threefold: (a) an overview (b) the side of the argument that will eventually be rejected (c) the side of the argument that in the ends makes the most logical sense. The time allowed will be 6 minutes, although any visual supplements will be over and beyond the 6 minutes.
  • The presentation will not be a Power Point one with everybody reading off the screen. Instead, the student will use notes/cards as in a debate: a quarter of the marks will be allotted for the manner of presentation, which includes fluency, confidence in the material assembled, plus capacity to use eye-contact with the class.
  • To begin the journey towards finding a topic, the class spends a lesson on the Internet looking at possible topics. The Nizkor Project website is a good starting point for two reasons. Firstly, although Nizkor is in the business of challenging Holocaust Denial, and therefore might be considered partisan, it does at least provide a comprehensive list of contested topics for both sides of the argument. For instance, the site – for some students – could be the first time they ever discover that some Deniers even dispute the authenticity of Anna Frank’s famous diary.
  • In addition, the Nizkor site provides Dr Michael C. Labossie’s list of logical fallacies. Here is the introduction to this:
Description of Fallacies
In order to understand what a fallacy is, one must understand what an argument is. Very briefly, an argument consists of one or more premises and one conclusion. A premise is a statement (a sentence that is either true or false) that is offered in support of the claim being made, which is the conclusion (which is also a sentence that is either true or false).
There are two main types of arguments: deductive and inductive. A deductive argument is an argument such that the premises provide (or appear to provide) complete support for the conclusion. An inductive argument is an argument such that the premises provide (or appear to provide) some degree of support (but less than complete support) for the conclusion. If the premises actually provide the required degree of support for the conclusion, then the argument is a good one. A good deductive argument is known as a valid argument and is such that if all its premises are true, then its conclusion must be true. If all the argument is valid and actually has all true premises, then it is known as a sound argument. If it is invalid or has one or more false premises, it will be unsound. A good inductive argument is known as a strong (or "cogent") inductive argument. It is such that if the premises are true, the conclusion is likely to be true.
A fallacy is, very generally, an error in reasoning. This differs from a factual error, which is simply being wrong about the facts. To be more specific, a fallacy is an "argument" in which the premises given for the conclusion do not provide the needed degree of support. A deductive fallacy is a deductive argument that is invalid (it is such that it could have all true premises and still have a false conclusion). An inductive fallacy is less formal than a deductive fallacy. They are simply "arguments" which appear to be inductive arguments, but the premises do not provided enough support for the conclusion. In such cases, even if the premises were true, the conclusion would not be more likely to be true.

  • The Authenticity of Anna Frank’s Diary
  • Hitler’s Responsibility For the Holocaust
  • Auschwitz Claims and Counter Claims
  • Disputation of Holocaust Deaths
  • The Contested Role of Zyklon B
  • The Integrity of the Holocaust-denying Adelaide Institute
  • The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
  • The Nuremburg Trials
  • The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
  • The Lipstadt/Irving Trial
  • The Historiography of the Arab Palestinian Exodus (1947-8)
  • The Islamic Republic of Iran and Holocaust Denial
  • Holocaust Inversion and Lenni Brenner

Assessment: This Unit of Work will be marked out of 40. Ten marks will be allocated for the speech set out in extended prose. Another ten marks will be for the manner of the presentation: the proper use of debating cars, eye contact, variability of voice, and confidence in handling the material, including responding to questions at the conclusion of the speech. Ten marks will reflect the strength of the research that has been undertaken. Finally, ten marks will be given for the quality of the argument. 


·      Lenni Brenner, in his book Zionism in The Age of Dictators (1983) argues that the Zionist movement during the time of the Third Reich collaborated with Hitler’s regime.
·    He contends that both the Nazis and the German Zionists shared a common goal, the separation of the Aryan race and the separation of the Jewish race. He notes that at a certain point the only two flags that were legal in Nazi Germany were the Swastika and the Zionist symbol and that this supports his view that the Nazis and the Zionists were on the same page. In short, Nazism and Zionism are both racialist political philosophies.
·  Lenni Brenner’s viewpoint, which equates Zionism with Nazism, fits perfectly with the Holocaust Inversion perspective.
·    Brenner is careful not to deny the Holocaust, and does not contest the verdict that millions of Jews died in the Holocaust; rather, his point is that the Zionists in Germany were no friends of non-Zionist Jews, ready to use the wholesale slaughter of Jews as a justification for the creation of a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine.
·      An opposing position would question the overall framework in which Brenner evaluates Zionism. For instance, Brenner is a Marxist-Leninist and a self-styled “independent Trotskyist”, and as Robert Wistrich in From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel (2012) asserts, the Marxist and Marxist-Leninist traditions have a record of disparaging Zionism, believing that the “Jewish Question” will be solved by an international proletarian revolution rather than the founding of a Jewish state. The Yiddish-speaking Jew with an interest in the Torah and other medieval pursuits disappears, as will all ethno-centrism, with the fall of capitalism. As John Lennon sings: “Imagine there’s no countries/I wonder if you can/No need for greed or hunger/A brotherhood of man.”
·      The other aspect of Brenner’s work that needs to be pursued scrutinised is the possible distortion of evidence in order to support his premise.
·      A final subject that needs to be investigated is the genesis of the Zionism=Nazism equation in the Soviet Union during Late Communism. 

·      Most importantly, perhaps, Brenner proffers a memorandum sent by the Zionist Federation of Germany to the Nazis on 21 June 1933, which is after Hitler assumed dictatorial powers through the Enabling Act (March 1933). The Zionist Federation was seeking a modus vivendi for the future relationship between the Nazis and themselves. Brenner notes the polite tone of the message and the intention of the Zionist to work with the Nazis. Did this not suggest a commonality of interests between the Nazis and the Zionists?
·      Not really, counters Louis Harap in an article published by Jewish Currents in May 1984. As she says: “Did Brenner think it preferable to address the Nazi bullies uncivilly.” Moreover, the Nazis never responded to this attempt at opening up the channels of communication.
·      Brenner also quotes from a passage in the American Jewish Congress’ Congress Bulletin, which refers to the “kinship” between the Nazis and the Zionists in the process of German Jews emigrating to Mandatory Palestine. Brenner interprets this mention of “kinship” to mean that the American Jewish Congress was accusing the Zionists of “collaboration” Harap checked the reference herself and discovered that the article in Congress Bulletin did no such thing. Zionists were permitted to accomplish a degree of Jewish emigration but nowhere in the article do the American Jews accuse the German Zionists of “collaboration”, a term that has the meaning of alliance and collusion. When the editorial is read properly it becomes clear that the American Jewish Congress was not critical of the Zionists but sympathetic to the fact they were sometimes forced into a kinship with the Nazis in order to save Jewish lives.
·      Harap also addresses the supposed allegation by the Bulletin editorial that the Zionists worked closely in the 1930s with a character called Georg Kareski, who really was a Jewish collaborator. According to Harap, however, in the wider context of the editorial it is clear that the Zionist Federation despised Kareski and only worked with him because the Nazis forced this duplicitous character upon them. In other words, they had no choice in the matter.
·      Elsewhere in his book, Brenner refers to the extra Jews that the Zionist Federation managed to extricate from Nazi Germany as “capitalists”, as if being a “capitalist” was a mortal crime and business people did not deserve saving from annihilation.
·      I should like to acknowledge Paul Bogdanor’s excellent website that made it possible for me to find this case.                                  

·      Not only does Brenner manipulate evidence and misrepresent documents to advance his Zionism=Nazism agenda, he appears to be operating in a very narrow political perspective. Robert Wistrich’s From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel (2012) is a very good study of the history of Marxists, from Kautsky, Luxemburg, Trotsky through to modern-day Trotskyists such as Lenni Brenner and so-called socialist libertarians like Noam Chomsky. A common thread has always been a dislike of Zionism because it does not fit their view that Jewish culture is a construct of capitalism, and that after a socialist revolution the Jewish religion, culture and customs will disappear. Zionism, and therefore Israel, should disappear and therefore not be a part of the future. Nobody should be religious, and certainly no country, such as a Jewish state, should be defined by any kind of religiousness.
·      In addition, the Zionist-Nazism equation has its origins in the Soviet Union and developed there on its own for fifteen years before it was picked up in the West by the New left in the 1960s. It might have as much to do with the politics of the New Left siding with Yasser Arafat and the PLO from at least the time of the Six Day War than a genuine fact-related theory.
·      Lenni Brenner’s assertion that Zionism shares a commonality with Nazism seems to be based on a fallacy: the premise that Nazi racialism (see X below) has a direct connection with the notion of ‘the Jewish race’. The Jewish tradition, if modern Israel is anything to go by, is not based on “race” in the way the Nazis defined this. For instance, many of the Jews in Israel do come from central and eastern Europe originally (Ashkenazi), but a large number come from North Africa and the Middle East (Sephardi) and a percentage have arrived from Ethiopia. To be Jewish is not racial per se, but an ambiguous blend of religious, cultural and ethnic factors.
·       It would seem Brenner has a view of how things really are and is not backward any manipulating evidence to support his case.                      

Topics for homework/research/consideration & class discussion
·      The Blood Libel
·      The Protocols of Zion
·      The Zionism-Nazism Equation
· The History of the West Bank: Disputed or Occupied Territories
·      The History of Gaza
·      Islamist Antisemitism
·      United Nations Resolution 181
·      The Life and Times of Yasser Arafat
·      The Deir Yassin Controversy
·      Boycotts, Divest, and Sanctions Campaign
·      Israeli Arabs
·      The Golan Heights
·      Israel’s Foreign Relations
·      Holocaust Survivors
·      Israel: the Start Up Nation
·      Discrimination against Israeli passport holders
·      Antisemitism in Venezuela
·      Israeli Television & Movies: the Homeland series.


Tacitus made it up

Daryl McCann
Quadrant Online, January 1, 2012

Christopher B. Krebs, A Most Dangerous Book (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011)

Christopher B. Krebbs, author of A Most Dangerous Book, describes Cornelius Tacitus (56 AD – 117 AD) as the “the leading Roman senator” of his time and “the greatest historian in Latin literature”. Tacitus nevertheless played fast and loose with the truth when it suited him. He wanted to score domestic political points in his Germania by contrasting the treachery of Roman affairs with the simplicity, integrity, courage and freedom of the Germani: “The – often only implicit – antithesis between Imperial Rome and life in Germania pervades the whole of Tacitus’ account.” Trouble was, all those fabulous sociological details about the Germani were bogus. Tacitus simply made it all up, borrowing from standard Roman stereotypes about foreigners.     

One of the qualities attributed to the spurious Germani was a special kind of loyalty that “reached beyond the intimate circle of friends and family”. Almost two thousand years later members of the SS had the motto “My honour is called loyalty” – Meine Ehre heißt Treue – engraved on their belt buckles. Krebs’ faculty for establishing a connection between these two instances of loyalty, one ancient and fictitious, the other modern and only too real, shows Tacitus’ Germania to be a most dangerous book indeed. Even phoney ideas, warns Krebs, can come to “resemble viruses”. 

A manuscript of the Germania was rediscovered in 1455 and published in the German language for the first time in 1473. For the next four centuries and more it was presumed to be an accurate depiction of the Roman Empire’s “The Other”:

Whether readers turned to the Germania to condemn the Germanic barbarians or to commend them as moral warriors, Tacitus’ text was widely read as a historical source on authentic Germanic life until the beginning of the twentieth century. 

Not only did German-speaking scholars and pedagogues fail to identify the Germania as a fable, they often chose to overlook Tacitus’ patronizing tone. The Roman historian might have praised the strength, loyalty and purity of those who lived on the wrong side of the Rhine, but the Germanias depicted by Tacitus – were nonetheless a simple and primitive race. 

Thus, when the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Michael von Faulhaber, made a series of sermons towards the end of 1933 chiding the Nazi regime he chose Tacitus’ Germania as his text. Von Faulhaber argued from the pulpit that whilst the ancient Germanic tribes were apparently big on hospitality and marital fidelity, this was but one part of the narrative. Such positives needed to be weighed against a penchant for human sacrifice, blood revenge, ownership of slaves, alcoholism, polytheism, and exposure of the weak and incurable. The Nazis, who revered the Germania monograph as if it were their Bible, were ipso facto barbarians. Michael von Faulhaber’s record against the National Socialists was not faultless, but Advent 1933 found him in unquestionably good form.  

One of the more tedious aspects of the Germanic cult between 1800 and 1945 was all those writers and philosophers, up to and including Martin Heidegger, banging on about the soullessness of modernity and the superficiality and artifice of Western civilization, all of which contrasted with the Tacitean “rooted-ness” and “organic-ness” of an authentic life. This monomaniacal worshipping of race, tribe, blood and soil meant venerating one aspect of human nature under the banner of a false wholesomeness. It gave birth, in the first instance, to modern anti-Semitism, but then the myth of a past Germanic racial purity transmutated into an even more sinister notion. 

Krebs identifies the German race researcher and eugenist Hans F K Günther (1891-1968) as a key character in what turned out to be a journey into hell. Günther, who avoided being tried by the Allies in 1945 because he was only an “intellectual”, had encouraged sociopaths such as Himmler to believe that the German volk could recover their Tacitean greatness through “Re-nordification” (Aufnordung). In other words, the production or reproduction of Nordic men and women (or Aryans) required the intervention of the German state at the expense of “the degenerate”. The Third Reich would advance triumphantly into the future by re-creating the ancient racial integrity attested to by Tacitus. Moreover, noted the Nazis, the Germani had safeguarded racial purity and nobility through their courage “to hang or drown in the marshes those who were inferior or predisposed to perversion”. In addition to avoiding punishment at the conclusion of the Second World War, Hans F K Günther remained a notorious denier of the Holocaust until his dying day. 

Krebs’ A Most Dangerous Book is the work of a genuine scholar but is also concise and witty, and finishes with a wise rejoinder: “In the end the Roman historian Tacitus did not write a most dangerous book; his readers made it so.”